Residents in the Horseshoe Lake area of Grand Rapids will be able to hook up to natural gas in the near future.

At Monday evening’s council meeting, the Grand Rapids city council unanimously approved an ordinance granting Gorhams’, Inc., doing business as Northwest Gas, with a franchise agreement. The approval of the ordinance followed a public hearing in which no one spoke either for or against the ordinance.

City Engineer Tom Pagel told the council that one of the most common calls he receives from city residents is how they can hook up to city gas.

City Attorney Chad Sterle pointed a couple items in the franchise agreement of which he wanted the council to be aware. Since the anticipated customer base is less than 650 customers, state statute allows for local rate regulation. The city or its designee shall be solely responsible for setting the rate.

The city also had the right of first refusal if the utility ever goes up for sale, Sterle told the council.

Following approval of the ordinance, the council approved a rate-making agreement with Northwest Gas. The agreement calls for Northwest Gas to supply documentation “the city deems necessary in determining the setting of a reasonable rate.”

The rate-making agreement also states that “after determining said amount, Gorhams’, Inc., is entitled to a reasonable rate of return not to exceed 12 percent of that determined amount.”

The length of the franchise agreement between Northwest Gas and the City of Grand Rapids is 22 years.

In other council business:

• The council heard a department head report from Grand Rapids Fire Chief Steve Flaherty. Flaherty told the council the fire department has responded to 138 calls so far this year, which is an increase to the trend the department has seen during the past several years. He said much of the increase was attributed to weather-related calls, which comprise 21 percent of the calls this year. Last year, the department responded to a total of five weather-related calls. The department is on pace to reach 200 calls this year.

The fire department has not had an injury reported by staff this year, and has been injury-free for nearly two years. In 2010, the department had two minor injury reports.

“I’m proud of our safety record,” said Flaherty.

• The council approved an agreement with Financial Crime Services, LLC, for developing and implementing a traffic diversion program. Grand Rapids Police Chief Jim Denny told the council the program will provide an alternative to criminal prosecution of petty misdemeanor traffic violations. The program will allow the offender to go online, pay a fee, watch an educational video, then take a test which, if passed, will allow the citation to be dismissed.

Councilor Gary McInerney asked if the citation would still go on the offender’s record, to which Denny replied it would not.

Denny added that the program would be limited to citations issued by Grand Rapids police officers and would be limited to two infractions per year.

It’s a great opportunity to offer an educational component to enforcement, Denny said.

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